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Apple and iPhone 4: The Revolution Will Be Televised

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After updating my iPhone to the iOS 4 operating system, the device quickly transformed itself from the pride of my pocket into an utter joke. With the fourth generation operating system, everything, as Apple claims, has indeed changed. Calls are dropped, text messages unsent. Using the phone to locate myself on Google Maps takes longer than finding a bookstore or gas station, buying a map, and then wayfinding the old-fashioned way. Apps that once hummed seamlessly (The New York Times, for one) now clunk hopelessly along, coughing and spewing sparks before crashing and quitting. Keystrokes take three, four, five seconds to register; the home button must be pushed twice to shake the phone from lethargic slumber.

Having learned the hard way that iOS 4 is entirely unsuited for my phone, I'd now like to downgrade to version 3. Unfortunately, for technological and proprietary reasons that I do not understand, I can't. While it's possible to perform the downgrade, even those who've figured out the magic algorithm to do so warn that, "It takes just one error to brick a device, something which Apple's warranty doesn't cover." Of course, my iPhone is currently about as useful for communication as a brick, but I'd like to think that there's still a chance that I'll be able to rescue it from the muck.

Though I've enjoyed my phone since buying it two years ago, I've grown increasingly displeased with the haughty and smug manner in which Apple has marketed it. While watching TV the other night, an Apple ad let me know that the nation was in the midst of a revolution. It struck me kind of funny, because not so long ago, it was gospel that the revolution would not be televised. I'll concede, though, that this revolution might need to be televised (at least for me) because of my handicapped iPhone's inability to inform me itself through traditional telephony.

Still, if Americans do indeed "vote with their dollars," then, while perhaps not a revolution in the Robespierre sense of the word, Apple's recent overtaking of Microsoft as the tech sector's most valuable company at least represents the accession to power of a new administration. In 2009, the iPhone became the most popular mobile phone in America. It's Steve Jobs' kingdom now, and all of us who've been convinced to buy his fine products have become subjects in the United States of Apple.

Now, if one accepts the precept, as many do, that Apple's gadgets are superior to everyone else's, then this corporately-declared "revolution" might be a positive thing: After all, why shouldn't Americans reward with their hard-won dollars the company that produces the best stuff? Apple's market share is considerably smaller than Mac fans would have you believe, and even if Jobs manages to put that lower-case "i" in front of toaster ovens, area rugs, and cigars, no one will ever confuse him with Rockefeller or Vanderbilt (although the Commodore's New York Central Railroad was no stranger to sluggish service and problems with infrastructure). Still, there is something fishy -- something somewhat Orwellian -- about declaring a revolution simply by way of introducing a new piece of technology, especially one that really only benefits those who've been able to purchase a device capable of handling it. Ideally, a revolution would benefit everyone, not merely those who have managed to snag a new iPhone reservation at the Apple Store.

I'd like to opt out of this revolution, at least until Apple is ready to actually finish what it has started.

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